Tobold's Blog
Monday, July 01, 2013
Card Hunter is probably not a multiplayer game at heart

To avoid derailing the comment thread of the previous post, I'll talk about a question from Rugus in that thread here in a new post. He asks: "I've been reading CH is getting a lot of beta requests. How's that when you open the lobby (multiplayers) you just see few people available online?" I think the answer is that the great majority of people playing Card Hunter is primarily concentrating on the PvE part, the campaign, and not on the multiplayer part.

That is not due a lack of rewards. Multiplayer is well rewarded in Card Hunter, if you win. You get a chest full of treasure for each win, with some (e.g. the first and third) having guaranteed rares, and the 20th even having a guaranteed epic. And as there is no separation between campaign gear and multiplayer gear, you can do multiplayer to equip your campaign characters. Of course the system is trying its best to match you against a player of equal strength, which means that ideally you win 50% of your games, so you'd need 40 games on average to get to that epic chest.

And there we meet the first problem of Card Hunter multiplayer: It just plays slower than single-player. There is a time-limit of 20 minutes per player overall, but even if both players only use half of that, 40 games of 20 minutes each are still 800 minutes, or over 13 hours. Even if you only meet fast people and can finish every game in 10 minutes, you still need nearly 7 hours to earn that epic chest. Forums are full of complaints of people who try to bore their opponents into a win by simply not doing anything for 20 minutes and hoping that their opponent concedes. Turn timers are under discussion.

But what for me is a far more serious problem is that compared to the single-player part, the multiplayer part is a lot less interesting. Card Hunter has for the campaign a great variety of different monsters with different tactics, from kobolds to dragons to the dreaded war monkeys. Adventures also vary in the number of monsters, going from one very powerful enemy to beat up to battles with hordes of small monsters. That all is a lot of fun through variety. In multiplayer you only ever get to fight the same sort of enemies, another player with a party of three characters who can be any combination of warriors, wizards, and priests. Furthermore victory conditions are also less varied than in the campaign. And with your opponent and the victory condition having less variety, and everybody being level 18, people also tend to less variety in their multiplayer decks: Certain cards are optimal for these multiplayer conditions, and thus you encounter them over and over.

I hear that the early beta didn't even have a multiplayer part, and that it was added later. In any case I very much have the impression that Card Hunter at its core is a single-player game vs. the AI. I could imagine other forms of multiplayer, in some sort of "player vs. DM" mode with the DM having access to various monsters instead of characters. But as it is right now, multiplayer is more of a non-essential addition to Card Hunter which doesn't attract all that many people. That might change later, and multiplayer could become some sort of "endgame" to Card Hunter; but it isn't even quite obvious how multiplayer will evolve when the level cap is raised to 50. I prefer to think of Card Hunter as primarily a single-player game.

I don't think a co-op map would work very well. It would require too much collaboration/communication to not be constantly getting in each other's way. Strategies have to shift so much depending on your draws, you'd need to spend a few minutes 'checking in' with your team each turn.

I pretty much only play single player, myself. It seems more restful.
I think that multiplayer cookie-cutter builds will disappear at higher ratings as players will acquire a variety of rare items and develop effective counters for standard builds.

Speaking of variety, we still miss much of it because of beta level cap (cap on level of items you can acquire) and power token scarcity at level 18 (you can't put fancy items with uncommon cards into all slots, have to chose a few and put something boring in the rest).

Item sharing between PvE and PvP also seems a bad idea. At the moment you're introduced to PvP from the campaign, you immediately gain a few fairly powerful (for your PvE party) items without power token requirement, lowering the challenge level in campaign.
A lot of developers seem to have problems giving out appropriate rewards for singleplayer vs multiplayer. It's the same problem in Scrolls. If you just want gold to buy more cards, it's almost always faster to play fast games against the AI player.
I see your point (and I agree) but I still think that having like ten people online -or less- is way too low, considering the insane amount of beta keys already given away (and beta requests on a daily basis).

I mean, I have never-ever been matched to a human player yet. Because I always see very few players online, and the running games are always like 5-6 at any given time.

That's weird, to be honest.
I tend to agree. Indeed, I thought from the start that I would prefer Card Hunter as a single-player game in which you try the demo then fork out $20 for the full version. I'd certainly have bought it.

Still, multiplayer is fine as an option so long as it doesn't harm the SP game.

I wonder if they should move toward 'monster play' or play with pre-designed decks? Those are options available to a computer CCG which maybe are not used enough. Though of course if there are bad sports who will not play if they don't get the draws they want, they will be worse if they do not get the decks they want.
Multiplayer would be much better if it played like Dungeon and Dragons minis where you had a point total you could spend on an army and the army is made up of creatures and enemies from the campaign. Minis does not have you fight player characters and Cardhunter should not either.
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